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Nth Korea Urged To Allow Food Aid To Its People

UN Expert Urges Dpr Of Korea To Allow Foreign Food Aid To Reach Its People

With millions of people in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea dependent on food aid for survival, the country's authorities must become flexible about allowing humanitarian assistance to come in, a United Nations independent expert said today.

Since the food shortage of 1995, the international community, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), has provided food for 6.5 million people in the country, Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for DPRK Vitit Muntarbhorn, a Thai lawyer, told a news conference after presenting a report to the General Assembly's Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committee yesterday and today.

Special rapporteurs are unpaid experts serving in an independent personal capacity who receive their mandate from the UN Commission on Human Rights and report back to it. Mr. Muntarbhorn's said one-third of mothers in DPRK were found to be malnourished and anaemic last year, while 37 per cent of children had stunted growth, 23 per cent were underweight and 7 per cent were wasting away. "The news this year is that DPRK authorities have tried to move from emergency relief to a development framework, with the consequence that they have been demanding the end to foreign food aid, particularly multilateral aid, and have been setting a date for the departure of key foreign humanitarian organizations, particularly NGOs," he told journalists.

Even with a better harvest this year there will still be a food shortage in a country where military expenditures are far too high, he said.

Despite a slight relaxation in the strict controls over freedom of movement, political dissidence is not tolerated and it is still illegal to listen to foreign broadcasts without permission, Mr. Muntarbhorn pointed out.

Political constraints and persecution, as well as hunger, have caused many North Koreans to seek asylum in other countries, he said.

Mr. Muntarbhorn noted that, despite to visit the country and had had to collect information from a variety of other sources.

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